Labels and Limits

So you think you're a pianist?

From a young age, we are taught to identify objects, feelings, people and ideas with words, but it must be understood that these words are only necessary for communication and do not actually have any effect whatsoever on the object, feeling, or idea.  The person, however, with an ego, is greatly affected by a title and such is the focus of this article.

'Water', for example, is simply a sound.  It has many other sounds to describe it in the hundreds of languages in the world (aqua, eau, ...), yet none of these sounds are the water itself.  Put another way, what is, always has been and always will be: itself, without the need for human labelling.

It is important to understand that the moment something or someone has been labelled, they are confined to the limits of the human mind's ability to describe, even though their value may be much greater and beyond words.  Not only this, labels come with expectations and myriad requirements to satisfy the assigned title.  This is what causes competition, jealousy and disappointment.  Is it fair to say that these three, and more, negative effects of labelling only concern the human and never a non-human object?  This is because the latter do not have an ego; they simply are.

I propose a question:  When does one 'become' a pianist?  Is it possible to identify the very moment that a 'non-pianist' becomes a 'pianist'?  Is it how many songs they know?  How many notes they can play in a minute?  Some may propose that a certificate dictates 'professional', but we can surely all agree that there are many qualified pianists (or any professional) who do not live up to their piece of paper that we have experienced in our lives?  I strongly believe that one becomes a pianist the moment one decides inside that they are a pianist before they even touch the piano... but they must touch a piano eventually.  If I wished to become a golfer, I would instantly call myself a golfer before even holding a club in my hand... but I would eventually hold a club and begin my destinationless journey.

As an aside, I recently discovered that there are many 'piano teachers' who, whilst are unprepared to play for new students, actually do not have any piece up their sleeve to perform!  How such pianists can consider themselves teachers without knowing a piece to play off the top of their head, given their years or playing and study, is quite remarkable to me, whether they want to perform to a new student or not.

Despite this oddity, the former question remains and the answer remains impossible to vocalise.  I find this very curious, yet there are some positive points to make for pianists of any experience which will go a long way to encouraging and motivating them.

In addition to the above, we can remove adjectival labels from our piano lives.  Consider the words 'hard', 'easy', 'beginner', 'advanced', 'complicated', 'challenging',...  These words are also indefinable since they carry different values for different pianists.  What is easy for one, is difficult for another and I'm sure the whole readership has experience of this in all walks of life.

Despite the above, I would like to share below how removing labels can provide encouragement and motivation to the pianist of any experience.  Be sure that it is only because of your ego's experience of labelling yourself as such and such, and using a vast array of negative adjectives, that you have not been able to progress at the naturally rapid rate you should have been.

1.  An improved sense of ability and 'progress':

Your ego did not exist when you were born and avoided you for the first few years of your life.  Over time, your ego became stronger and stronger.  It is said that the ego is simply a database of past experiences from which we base our present lives and future expectations.  This is the mistake.  Unfortunately, because everyone has different experiences and everyone has a different idea of what *insert adjective here* means, the adjective itself becomes meaningless to the world and only meaningful to You.  In other words, you are living your own illusion of what you think those words mean, based on your experiences.  Isn't that a little... strange?  To live according to the incorrect, unjustified assumptions of a false self?  Surely so.

The pianist would do well to actively, consciously and regularly remove labels so that everything becomes the same.  By doing this, and I mean really, really removing these illusionary labels, you will find that problems no longer exist.  Water behaves the same way since it has no ego.  Have you ever heard of water making a fuss that a rock was too large?  A fall was too steep or a lake too deep?  It simply adapts instantly to what it encounters and overcomes it without force or the labelling of difficulties, doubts or abilities.

Sometimes, a line of rocks may slow down the water flow greatly, but not once will it stop and complain; it will continue at a natural speed, always seeking the route of least resistance.  It never stresses since it doesn't have a final destination.  You must be water.  Remove the need to arrive, to 'become', to 'overcome' as a sign of success, and you will simply always be as good as you can be.  As you may have considered, a traveller is always happy since he is always content on never arriving.  It is only by forceless, steady persistence that water is able to carve landscapes and shape mountains.

Think about that.

2.  No more comparisons, increased self-satisfaction:

Stop believing that you are only as good as you match up to others of more or less experience.  Be sure, they are doing the same, so what we get is a huge circle of comparative egos all flowing around a circle of needlessness.  

It is only in staying focused on You that you will make the most natural progress.  Basing you skills on others results in you trying to do things to satisfy your ego because you want to 'be like' someone or even be better than them; to prove a point.  Whilst this may well be the result (if you can define the word 'better'), it must happen naturally and without force or ego.

3.  Study what you want, when you want:

It cannot be denied that some things are useful to know before other things, but since the concept of curriculum (structured learning) is only based on what 'a group of people believe to be best based on their own experiences', it seems somewhat futile for everyone to follow 'it'.

If you wish to learn a piece of music which would traditionally have been perceived as 'above your ability at the moment', I am telling you to start it right this moment because whatever you are working on right now is only in accordance with either what your ego believes you are capable of (which is always wrong) or what your teacher believes you should be studying based on their strict adherence to their own structured learning.  Whilst this may be satisfactory to you, it must equally be understood and accepted that when you do what you love, your increased levels of passion enhance your emotional connection with it, so you progress at a faster rate.

Thinking about starting a great Chopin Etude?  One of Liszt's Transcendental Etudes?  A Beethoven Sonata?  Go for it.  Only your ego says you cannot and as you should always remember:  there are those who say they can, and those who say they can't, and they're both correct.  Which one are you?

Hopefully you are coming to realise how labels carry no meaning since they are valued differently by different people (even in terms of a country's education - think about what some younger students can do in some countries in comparison to others).  By considering every possible component of your area of interest (pianism in our case) as equal, since this is the purest way to use the mind, you will approach each area of particular interest with equal positive belief and not give any thought to how others are doing; if you're progressing 'too slowly', for example, since such concepts will no longer exist to you.

In this way, limits are removed and you become free to play at your guise.

Give it some thought, and remember, 

Play You.

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